This eighth volume presents about 1,500 letters many of them unpublished, from the years 1856 to 1858. This period includes several major changes in Dickens's public and private life, notably in 1858 when he separates from his wife and starts a new career of paid readings from his works. But throughout 1856 and part of 1857, his main preoccupation is the writing of his monthly serial Little Dorrit; for much of 1856 he continues to reside happily in France with his family, both in Boulogne and Paris, giving racy accounts of its theatres and his meetings with writers and artists. At his own amateur theatricals in 1857, his great success in Wilkie Collins's The Frozen Deep has lasting consequences; at the close of his work for the Douglas Jerrold Fund, the play is repeated with professional actresses, including three members of the Ternan family. Later rumours of his relations with a young actress (Ellen Ternan) provoke him to an ill-advised public statement which leads to a breach with his publishers and with one of his closest friends, Mark lemon. Finally, he embarks on the first of many strenuous reading tours, giving 85 readings in over 40 towns, all within three months.
His usual activities are not neglected: he makes many speeches for good causes, and continues to edit Household Words (and its successor All the Year Round), with help from his friend and assistant editor Wills. Throughout, there is new material, both in the letters and in the editors' annotation, with some fresh interpretation of controversial matters.
Publisher: Oxford University Press